With the finishing line rapidly approaching in Saturday's Grade II, $196,000 Swaps Stakes, jockey Joel Rosario, aboard Skipshot, began to wonder whether his horse would have to settle for second place behind heavily favored Sidney's Candy in the 1 1/8-mile race.
Sidney's Candy had opened a 1½-length lead with an eighth of a mile to go. But Rosario and Skipshot never gave up. A tiring Sidney's Candy, trying to go wire to wire, couldn't hold on. Skipshot, sent off at odds of 4-1, won by a head in the championship race for 3-year-olds at Hollywood Park. Summer Movie was third and Alphie's Bet fourth in the four-horse field.
What a day it was for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. He saddled Tuscan Evening to her sixth consecutive stakes victory earlier in the day in the $150,000 Modesty Handicap at Arlington Park. His assistant trainer, Dan Ward, took charge of Skipshot, a son of Skip Away who finished fifth behind Sidney's Candy last April in the Santa Anita Derby.
"He's improving," Ward said.
Rosario's strategy was to make sure Sidney's Candy was pressured from start to finish. Sidney's Candy was making his first start since a 17th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. Skipshot tracked him in second place throughout, making an early move going into the final turn before wearing down Sidney's Candy in the final strides.
"If we let him get loose, maybe we'd never catch him," Rosario said. "I continued to ride hard all the way. If he beats me, fine. I thought we'd at least get second, but we beat him."
Jockey Joe Talamo, who rode the 1-5 favorite, said, "He was training so well up to this race. I think that last little part just got him. He was coming off a decent layoff, so I could see him maybe needing the race. He's still a great horse and he's going to bounce back."
Rosario opened a four-win lead over Rafael Bejarano in the jockey standings with one day left in the meeting.
"I've been working hard," Rosario said. "If I get it, it's something special."
In the Grade II, $150,000 A Gleam Handicap, 13-1 longshot Sweet August Moon, ridden by Victor Espinoza, won by 1¾ lengths over Free Flying Soul, with Will O Way finishing third in the seven-furlong race for fillies and mares.
Sweet August Moon, a 5-year-old daughter of Malibu Moon, hadn't won since April of last year at Santa Anita. "I've always expected her to come back around," trainer Brian Koriner said.
The Hollywood Park meeting ends Sunday with the Grade III, $100,000 Sunset Handicap at 1½ miles on the turf.